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Published: Friday, 11/26/2004

Prostitution ring forfeits big bucks to government

BY TAD VEZNER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

When Michael Moosaing Tak was arrested, he was carrying $550 in his pocket. It was more than most people would carry - but then, most people don't help convert massage parlors into prostitution rings.

Still, it wasn't until a search of homes belonging to his partner - Kim Young, 48, of Toledo - that authorities found everything they'd been hoping for: hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, a fur coat, a new Toyota Camry, and an expensive watch.

Those items, as well as homes at 526 Coeli Drive and 6032 West Benalex Drive in Toledo; the massage parlor known as Rainbow Health Spa at 5205 Telegraph Rd., and hundreds of thousands of dollars in multiple bank accounts are now in the final stages of being forfeited to the U.S. States government.

"Ms. Kim agreed to all of these forfeitures as part of her plea agreement," said John Czarnecki, Ms. Kim's attorney.

Also in the final stages is the federal case, which started with arrests in July, 2002, involving three massage parlors in three states.

The case involved a Korean-American prostitution ring that conspired to send hundreds of thousands of dollars to South Korea.

Patrons visiting the massage parlors, including the Rainbow Health Spa, the Olympia Spa in Louisville, and the Oriental Spa in Barboursville, W.Va., often paid for sexual services with credit cards, court documents alleged.

Ms. Kim and Mr. Tak then authorized those credit-card purchases through the Bank of America in Knoxville, Tenn., to be converted into cash, which was stored in Ms. Kim's homes, and some of which was then wired to South Korea.

After a joint investigation involving the FBI, Internal Revenue Service, and the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation, investigators managed to recover much of the ring's proceeds, which are now being claimed by the U.S. government.

The proceeds, in addition to the $550 in Mr. Tak's pocket, include:

● $329,640 in cash from Ms. Kim's residence at 6032 West Benalex Drive.

● $266,591 in cash from Ms. Kim's residence at 526 Coeli Drive.

● A $2,000 fur coat from Ms. Kim's 526 Coeli Drive residence.

● An $800 Fendi watch from Ms. Kim's 526 Coeli Drive residence.

● $38,544.75 in cash found at the three massage parlors.

● $34,050.60 in four National City Bank accounts under the names of Kim Young and Kyong Suk An, and a $25,000 National City Bank cashier's check.

● $7,557.56 in two PNC Bank accounts under the name Olympia Health Spa.

Two Toledo women, a Louisville man, and a Los Angeles man have pleaded guilty to multiple counts relating to money laundering, racketeering, and prostitution. To date, only Mr. Tak, 45, the Los Angeles man, has been sentenced. He started serving 18 months in a west coast prison in January.

The other three included Ms. Kim, 48, who like Mr. Tak pleaded guilty to a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) charge relating to money laundering; an additional count of money laundering conspiracy; a count of interstate travel or use of interstate communications facilities in aid of racketeering; and a count of interstate transportation for purposes of prostitution.

That last count relates to transferring prostitutes back and forth between the parlors.

The RICO counts carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine; the money laundering conspiracy charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine; the interstate travel in aid of racketeering count's maximum is five years in prison and a $250,000 fine; and the prostitution count's maximum sentence is 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Also found guilty in the case were Hung V. Tran, 35, of Louisville, who pleaded guilty to a RICO conspiracy count, and a count of interstate transportation for purposes of prostitution; and another Korean-American Toledo woman - Kyong Suk An, 44, who pled to one count of conspiracy to launder money.

It was Ms. An's bank account that was used from 2001 to 2002 to wire money to Korea: $60,000 from Toledo and $269,000 from Knoxville, according to court documents. Ms. An traveled to South Korea and allegedly received the money in person via the National Agricultural Cooperative Federation Bank in Tomeduchom City.

"She was in Korea at the time. The money was wired," said Ms. An's attorney, Steve Hartman.

"Ms. An was just one of the people involved in the laundering," said David Bauer, head of Toledo's U.S. Attorney's Office, who declined to comment further on the case until all those involved have been sentenced.

A sentencing date has yet to be set for Ms. An, Mr. Tran, or Ms. Kim by Judge James G. Carr in U.S. District Court.

Contact Tad Vezner at:

tvezner@theblade.com

or 419-724-6050.



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